“Right Plant, Right Place” – we hear this a lot, why is it important, and how do we make it happen? Understanding the planting environment – sun/shade, soil attributes, water availability, means we can pick a plant that will thrive in that environment, and not need additional inputs to be healthy. Spending time early in the design process to understand the planting conditions is a valuable use of your time.
For sun requirements, plants fall into the following categories:
- Full sun – at least six hours of sun per day. This doesn’t mean the plant has to be in the middle of nowhere without any shade, though vegetables will perform better with the maximum available light. Most plants appreciate a little cover in the late afternoon, especially in the middle of summer.
- Partial sun – plants need at least four hours, preferably six hours, of sun per day. Ideal is morning sun, with protection during the stronger afternoon sun.
- Partial shade – not the same as partial sun! These plants will do best with no more than four hours of sun per day. Again, ideal is morning sun, with shade in the afternoon.
- Full shade – needs indirect sun, about three hours per day.
There are several methods for determining how much sun/shade the various areas of a garden will receive. The easiest and most used is observation – walk around the site at several times during the day, and note which areas are sunny or shady at each time. Another method is historical – the crocuses on the south side of the Planters’ Choice sign bloom earlier than those on the north side, sometimes by a week or more.
There are online tools that will assist in determining how much sun a specific area receives. These can be complicated to use, so allow plenty of time if trying these. The application we used showed where the shadow was at noon on June 1st. Other factors to consider are the surroundings – nearby roads, surrounding vegetation, availability of water.
Roads and driveways can have two impacts – salt and visibility. Especially in Connecticut, plants within a few feet of a road or driveway need to be salt tolerant. This also applies to areas near Long Island Sound. Visibility is needed for safety’s sake, so consider the mature height of plants when selecting plants.
Existing vegetation will impact the new garden – competing for resources and providing shade. For example, the large maple tree next to the Planters’ Choice sign restricts the amount of water available for other plants – the canopy both provides shade and prevents water from reaching the ground. The roots are near the surface, limiting planting options due shallow soil, and absorb the water that does reach the ground.
Based on the above, the plants selected for the area around the sign should meet the following criteria:
- Light – Part Sun/Part Shade
- Moisture – Dry Soil, Drought Tolerant
- Salt Tolerant
- Height – less than 3’ tall in the area between the sign and the road